The legend shows those having played in last year's event in Chiangmai (perhaps in a lower age-group) as marked in bright blue, those playing for the first time in gold.
It is fair to say that the gold and silver medalists generally field no more than 1 first timer (with the exception of the Philippines in the Boys U12 and U16 and Girls U12). A bold move but it reaped dividends. Singapore had bronze meals in the Boys and Girls' U10 despite fielding 2 first-timers. Our lacklustre performance was in the U14 where we had an experienced team but finished 4th to Malaysia fielding 2 new players. The same goes for the U16 Boys where both Vietnam and Philippines had fielded 2 fresh faces but finished top 2 places.
Fielding first timers often gives the element of surprise as there are little or no games that can be used for game and opening preparation. Of course, if the first timers are prepared well they can score heavily.
My take on Team Singapore's performance is that for the U10-U14 category, we have started our preparations a little late. Our boys and girls in the U10-U14 do not have sufficient game practice in the Standard time-control and this is evident in the first 5 rounds where our players finished their games in little over an hour, despite warnings from the coaches. Another weakness was shown in their conduct of the endgames, where the Vietnamese and Filipinos do better in this department. Upon examing the game scores, I noticed that many of the top players here are content not to engage their opponents in tactics but play a safe middlegame, readily exchanging and start playing only upon reaching the endgame. In this department I find that our girls do not have the necessary strength to hold their opponents.
More would need to be done in the weekly training at the NJS. My suggestion is to start gathering those interested in going for the tournament next year to start training at least 9 months before we head for the next edition in Ho Chi Minh city. For these players, 90 minute games per side would have to be worked into schedule and more importantly, not from move 1 but from endgame positions they've encountered. There's plenty of material from the games in Macao and Chiangmai to obtain those positions whereby players can improve upon their losses and play better.
Though we have been preparing our kids on openings that their opponents use, I find that it does not do much to help them as their opponents generally avoid theoretical positions and tend to steer the game along positional lines. So my advice is that a lot more positional chess concepts would need to be covered in order to better prepare our players when encountering more quiet positions in their games.
Accompanying parents I feel play an important role in providing moral support and encouragement for everyone playing there, not just their own children. As first time parents to this event, it is important I believe not to make remarks on how impressive the Vietnamese and Filipinos are. Rather, we should always tell our own children that they are no worse and can do just as well if they set their hearts and minds to it. The other countries do not have the luxury of 7 coaches to help their players prepare for games, so surely we can do a lot better without having the psychological fear of them?
I must thank the wonderful team of Nisban, Tian Wah, May Hui, Hwee Khim and Dr Lee for great teamwork in administering the affairs of Team Singapore from the first of the event till its end. All who were there would agree that they have helped immensely in the settling down of all in Team Singapore and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the schedules are followed. Our players are well behaved generally so there were no incidents involving their behaviour.